From Hindupedia, the Hindu Encyclopedia

By Swami Harshananda

Gaṅgāvataraṇa literally means ‘descent of the river Gaṅgā’.

The story of Bhagīratha who brings the celestial river Gaṅgā down to this earth has been described in great detail in the Rāmāyana,[1] the Bhāgouota,[2] the Mahābhārata[3] and the Mārkandeya Purāna.[4] This has often provided the artisans and sculptors with an inspiring theme for their work.

In Mahābalipuram (or Māmallā-puram) situated 50 kms. to the south of Madras (now Chennai) there is a distinguished relief work carved into a huge rock depicting the descent of Gaṅgā on this earth. It has many details, such as ascetics in prayer, pilgrims, animals of all kinds heading towards the sacred water and so on. It belongs to the 7th century A. D.


  1. Rāmāyana 1.43
  2. Bhāgouota 9.9
  3. Mahābhārata Vanaparva 109
  4. Mārkandeya Purāna 53
  • The Concise Encyclopedia of Hinduism, Swami Harshananda, Ram Krishna Math, Bangalore